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Father of Assam's floating boats advises Gujarat activists not to accept govt interference in day-to-day work

Sanjoy Hazarika interacting with NGOs
By Our Representative
Sanjoy Hazarika, brain behind “floating clinics” of Assam, has advised Gujarat-based non-government organizations (NGOs) not to accept any government interference while working for the welfare of the people. Answering a flurry of questions from top Gujarat NGO representatives on “success” of his experiment and relations with Assam government, Hazarika, who currently runs as many as 16 boat clinics in Brahmaputra river in a dozen districts in order to reach farthest of the areas, said, “When the state health minister offered support, my condition was, we would accept government funds only one condition: No interference in our work.”
Saying that this was the crux of his success, which began about a decade ago in one district and one boat with the aim of fighting Assam’s highest maternal mortality rate (MMR) in India, 481 deaths per 1 lakh live births, Hazarika said, on his part, while signing an agreement, he “offered complete transparency, but made it clear that would withdraw in case government officials interfered.” The issue cropped up when Pankti Jog of Agariya Heet Rakshak Manch (AHRM) said government’s mobile clinics in the Little Rann of Kutch, where saltpan workers work in remote and harsh conditions, had “collapsed”.
“The state government now says that it seems it is unable to go ahead with mobile medical clinics, as it cannot get doctors’ support. It has offered AHRM to take up the work of running mobile clinics”, Jog said, wondering what was the solution, and whether the organization which she represents should go ahead. “When I met the Assam chief minister with my experiment, he said it was a good experiment and I should go ahead with it”, Hazarika said, adding, following out experiment with just one boat, the district magistrate, Dibrugadh, showed interest, and then the health minister offered support.”
Currently part of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the top Assam activist said, “A major reasons why doctors remain with floating clinics is, we have managed to take interns as part of the team. The interns who join us are offered Rs 5,000 more than the stipend in government hospitals. Then, those who join us get extra marks for their work with us. Although doctors are young, their presence has been a great help to about 20 lakh people living in scattered islands in Brahmaputra river, which at places is 18 kilometres wide.”
Already, Hazarika said, offers have come from at least three other states to go ahead with experiments on similar lines – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. “But unless local activists get involved and go ahead, and government agrees to work without seeking to interfere in day-to-day work, this will not go ahead”, Hazarika insisted. While calling his experiment as “public-private partnership”, he said, “As we are part of NRHM, we do not charge anything from the patients, including for delivery. Our health clinics have helped bring down MMR in Assam to 350, the highest fall anywhere in India.”
During the interaction, Hazarika showed a film on the floating clinic, produced jointly with the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES). It shows how the major innovative health campaign reached some of the most marginalized and poorest communities in India who live on hundreds of islands, called saporis, inaccessible and isolated, unknown and unheard.
A statement issued on the occasion by Benoy Acharya of Unnati, which organized the interaction, said, “There are no roads here but today, but boat clinics, conceived and developed by the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, and manned by doctors, nurses, lab technicians and pharmacists as well as crew, organizers and community workers reach more than a million people, pulling them out of a deadly cycle of maternal and infant mortality, conditions which contrast dramatically with the overwhelming beauty of the place.
The statement said, “In partnership with the National Rural Health Mission of Assam, in tough terrain, rough weather and choppy waters, the teams struggle to bring communities from the margins of despair to the embrace of hope.C-NES is supported by the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), to implement a project providing preventive and promotiove health services in the islands through specially designed boats.”
Hazarika is Saifuddin Kitchelew Chair and is the Director of Centre for North East Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and managing trustee of C-NES a non-profit established in 2000 and is an eminent writer, journalist and an expert on the region. He is Member of the Central Council of Health & Family Welfare, under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare nominated by the Government of India. He has been a member of various academic organizations and official committees, including the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee to Review AFSPA, the Society of Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, and the North East India Studies Programme, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Very Good work done by him... Commendable .... Hats off to him.

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